A newly-published study which looked at the experiences of more than 28,000 women in the UK and Ireland has shown a significant association between home birth and breastfeeding (Quigley et al 2016). Freely available from BMJ Open, the research was a cross-sectional study which used information from two different databases to explore a possible relationship between these two factors.
It probably won’t surprise many midwives and birth workers to read that an association exists, and I imagine that many people will be able to make good educated guesses as to some of the reasons why these two things are associated.The researchers note that the relationship is unlikely to be causal; there are a number of factors involved and one thing I love about this paper is that the researchers explain the methodological issues and look at the different things that could have influenced the findings. If you’re interested in home birth, breastfeeding or want to better understand the complexity of birth-related research, I recommend having a look at this article.
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Objectives To examine the association between breast feeding outcomes and place of birth (home vs hospital birth).
Design Population-based cross-sectional study.
Setting Ireland and UK.
Participants 10 604 mother–infant pairs from the Growing Up in Ireland study (GUI, 2008–2009) and 17 521 pairs from the UK Millennium Cohort Study (UKMCS, 2001–2002) at low risk of delivery complications were included in the study.
Primary and secondary outcome measures Breast feeding initiation, exclusivity and duration.
Results Home birth was found to be significantly associated with breast feeding at all examined time points, including at birth, 8 weeks, 6 months and breast feeding exclusively at 6 months. In GUI, adjusted OR was 1.90 (95% CI 1.19 to 3.02), 1.78 (1.18 to 2.69), 1.85 (1.23 to 2.77) and 2.77 (1.78 to 4.33), respectively, and in UKMCS it was 2.49 (1.84 to 3.44), 2.49 (1.92 to 3.26), 2.90 (2.25 to 3.73) and 2.24 (1.14 to 4.03).
Conclusions Home birth was strongly associated with improved breast feeding outcomes in low-risk deliveries. While the association between home birth and breast feeding is unlikely to be directly causal, further research is needed to determine which factor(s) drive the observed differences, to facilitate development of perinatal care that supports breast feeding.